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News items about tribal peoples from across the world
Updated: 28 min 17 sec ago

India: Tribe faces eviction from tiger reserve – but uranium exploration approved

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 18:58
The Chenchu have lived alongside tigers in Nallamala Forest, which includes Amrabad tiger reserve, since time immemorial.The Chenchu have lived alongside tigers in Nallamala Forest, which includes Amrabad tiger reserve, since time immemorial.© Survival

Officials in India are threatening to evict a tribe from a tiger reserve in the name of conservation – but have just approved uranium exploration in the same reserve. The move has angered campaigners, who accuse the authorities of hypocrisy.

The Chenchu tribe in Amrabad tiger reserve have pleaded to be allowed to stay on the land which they have been dependent on and managed for millennia.

They say: “The forest department is planning to evict us from this place. We do not want to go anywhere. We protect our forest. If we go outside it is like taking a fish out of the water, it will die… But now the government, for their own profit, is separating the Chenchu from the forest, this is like separating children from their mothers. 

Chenchu woman from Pecheru village. The village was evicted in the ’80s. Chenchu report that of the 750 families that used to live in the village, just 160 families survived after the eviction took place. Many starved to death. Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.Chenchu woman from Pecheru village. The village was evicted in the ’80s. Chenchu report that of the 750 families that used to live in the village, just 160 families survived after the eviction took place. Many starved to death. Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.© Survival

“The government is selling the forest to mining companies. If we go to the plains areas we will become addicted to alcohol and we will drink and die. In the future the Chenchu will only be seen in photographs and videos. 

“We live in the forest and we will die in the forest. The forest is our mother and our life. Wildlife is our life, without wildlife we cannot live.”

Indian authorities justify their forced evictions of tribal people – which are illegal according to national and international law – on the grounds that any human presence in the reserves is harmful to tigers. However, in many tiger reserves in India, fee-paying tourists are allowed to visit in large numbers, and road-building, mineral exploration and even mining have all taken place.

A Chenchu woman from Amrabad tiger reserve. For the Chenchu, being forest people is an essential part of their identity and pride.A Chenchu woman from Amrabad tiger reserve. For the Chenchu, being forest people is an essential part of their identity and pride.© Survival

Background briefing
- The Chenchu are just one of many Indian tribes facing eviction from their ancestral land. Many Baiga communities have already been evicted in central India, either thrown out to fend for themselves, or moved to government resettlement camps where living standards are frequently dire.
- Indian law requires any evictions to be voluntary, and communities are supposed to be compensated. However, tribal people are rarely informed that they have a guaranteed right to stay, and are often threatened. Compensation money is rarely sufficient to allow them to adapt to life outside the forest, and people often don’t receive what they were promised.
- Amrabad tiger reserve is in Telangana state in southern India.
- The Chenchu lived by hunting and gathering in southern and central India for millennia, until hunting was banned in the 1970s. Government efforts to make them take up farming have been largely resisted by the tribe themselves.
- The Chenchu have an incredible knowledge of their forest and the animals they share it with. They collect 20 different types of fruit and 88 different types of leaves. They see all the animals as both their relations and as gods. Their customs dictate that they should never take more than they need from the forest or waste anything. One Chenchu said: “If outsiders come inside the forest, they will cut all the trees and take away all the fruits; we don’t cut the trees and we take just the fruits we need.”

Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, and his wife, pose after a tiger hunt. India, 1902. Hunting by the Raj elite was the main reason for the decline of the Bengal tiger, yet many conservation efforts are now directed at tribal peoples.Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, and his wife, pose after a tiger hunt. India, 1902. Hunting by the Raj elite was the main reason for the decline of the Bengal tiger, yet many conservation efforts are now directed at tribal peoples.© Wikimedia

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “This is the ultimate in hypocrisy: the authorities want to evict the tribespeople who have managed this environment for millennia, on the pretext that tiger numbers will suffer if the people stay, but then allow in uranium prospectors. It’s a con. And it’s harming conservation. Tourists to Amrabad Tiger Reserve should realize they are supporting a system which could lead to tribal people, the best conservationists, being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands, and that uranium mines might one day take their place.” 

UN condemns Brazil’s “attack” on indigenous peoples

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 08:59
The UN has condemned Brazil's onslaught on indigenous rights, which threatens to wipe out uncontacted tribes The UN has condemned Brazil's onslaught on indigenous rights, which threatens to wipe out uncontacted tribes © G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have condemned Brazil’s “attack” on its indigenous peoples.

In a new statement, UN and IACHR experts have warned that Brazilian Indians are at great risk as politicians continue pushing to weaken their hard-won land rights.

Brazil’s constitution states that indigenous territories must be mapped out and protected for the Indians’ exclusive use. But anti-indigenous politicians linked to Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby are calling for changes to the law which could enable them to steal and destroy these lands for large-scale plantations and “development” projects. This is the most serious attack Brazilian Indians have experienced in decades.

Without their lands, indigenous peoples cannot survive. Tribes nationwide have united in protest against this onslaught on their rights. One indigenous leader, Adalto Guarani, said that the politicians’ plans “are like an atomic bomb… which could kill all the Indians in Brazil” and has called for people around the world to take action.

Brazil is home to over 250 tribes, including over 100 who are uncontacted and reject contact with mainstream society. Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They face genocide and will be killed by disease and violence brought by invaders if their land is not protected, but the teams charged with keeping outsiders away are paralyzed by recent budget cuts.

The statement slams the “illegitimate criminalization” of indigenous peoples’ allies. The anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby instigated an inquiry whose recently published report attacked indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International. The report was met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond.

The experts also highlighted that over the last 15 years, Brazil has seen “the highest number of killings of environmental and land defenders of any country”. Dozens of indigenous leaders have been assassinated in recent years, following attempts to reoccupy their ancestral land, and last month, thirteen Gamela Indians were hospitalized after a violent attack by men armed with machetes in the Amazon.

The UN and the IACHR have recommended that “Brazil should be strengthening institutional and legal protection for indigenous peoples”.

Survival has launched a campaign to defend indigenous rights in Brazil.

Bangladesh: Hundreds of Jumma houses torched by settlers – as army and police stand by

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 04:14
Jumma villagers flee the attack, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.Jumma villagers flee the attack, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.© Anonymous

At least 250 houses belonging to Jumma tribal people, the indigenous inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, have been burnt to the ground by Bengali settlers. An elderly woman, Guna Mala Chakma, was trapped in her home and burned to death.

The arson attack happened on June 2, after the body of Nurul Islam Nayon, a Bengali motorcycle driver, was found and local people blamed Jummas for his death.

Eyewitnesses say that army and police personnel stood by and did nothing as settlers, protesting against Mr Nayon’s death, went on the rampage, setting fire to Jumma houses and shops in three different villages.

The Bangladesh government has been moving Bengali settlers onto the lands of the Jumma tribal people for more than 60 years. The Jummas have gone from being practically the sole inhabitants of the Hill Tracts to now being outnumbered by settlers.

Tensions between the communities remain high, and violence in one area can often trigger revenge attacks elsewhere.

Settlers have often been allowed to carry out such attacks with impunity, with the security forces ignoring pleas for help from the Jumma community. It has been reported that on June 4, a peaceful protest against the arson attack was violently dispersed by the police and army. Soldiers punched Jumma protestors and beat them with sticks, after demonstrators had called for the perpetrators of the arson attack to be brought to justice.

Survival International is calling for those responsible for the arson attack, and for the death of Nurul Islam Nayon, to be brought to justice. It’s also urging the Bangladesh government to urgently investigate the role of the security forces during the attack on the villages and the subsequent peaceful protest.

Kenya: Victory for Ogiek tribe in historic court ruling

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 07:05
An Ogiek man prepares his bow and arrows.An Ogiek man prepares his bow and arrows.© Yoshi Shimizu

In a landmark decision, the African Court has ruled that the government of Kenya violated the rights of the Ogiek tribe by repeatedly evicting them from their ancestral lands.

The court found that the government had broken seven articles of the African Charter and ordered it to take “all appropriate measures” to remedy the violations.

The Ogiek had sued the government for violations to their right to life, natural resources, religion, culture, property, development and non-discrimination.

The case was brought by the Ogiek Peoples Development Program (OPDP), the Center for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE) and Minority Rights Group International, and was first lodged eight years ago.

Daniel Kobei, director of OPDP said: “For the Ogiek, this is history in the making. The issue of Ogiek land rights has finally been heard and the case has empowered them to feel relevant… This is a chance for the government to restore the Mau [Forest] and to restore the dignity of the Ogiek people".

The Ogiek are a hunter-gatherer tribe who have lived in the Mau Forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley since time immemorial.

They have suffered a long history of discrimination and eviction from their land from colonial times to the present.

This woman's home was demolished during illegal evictions from Ogiek ancestral land.This woman's home was demolished during illegal evictions from Ogiek ancestral land.© Survival

Much of the Ogiek’s rich forest has been invaded and destroyed by outsiders, and converted into logging concessions. Some government officials even attempted to justify the evictions in the name of conservation, by falsely accusing the tribe of destroying the forest.

Evictions are often violent and Ogiek people have been killed and had their homes burned. They have never been consulted about the evictions nor received any compensation.

Last month a UN body expressed its concern over Kenya’s treatment of hunter-gatherer tribes, and called on the government to: “Ensure legal acknowledgement of the collective rights of the Sengwer, the Endorois, the Ogiek and other indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their lands, resources and communal territories”.

It is hoped the ruling will set an important precedent for other indigenous land rights cases in Africa.

Gillian Anderson and Mark Rylance launch global campaign for uncontacted tribes

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 01:18
Uncontacted tribal man pictured from the in air 2010 in film footage which subsequently went viral around the world.Uncontacted tribal man pictured from the in air 2010 in film footage which subsequently went viral around the world.© G. Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

Survival International ambassadors Gillian Anderson OBE and Sir Mark Rylance have launched a global campaign for uncontacted tribes – the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

Both actors are long-standing Survival supporters, and star in a new campaign film.

The film spearheads an international push to protect uncontacted tribes, who face unprecedented threats to their survival. All the government units currently protecting Brazil’s uncontacted tribes from invasion by loggers and ranchers could soon be withdrawn, according to information leaked to Survival.

Uncontacted tribes are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance. There are more than 100 such tribes around the world, in South America, the Indian Ocean, and West Papua.

Actress and Survival International ambassador Gillian Anderson fronts Survival’s global campaign for uncontacted tribes.Actress and Survival International ambassador Gillian Anderson fronts Survival’s global campaign for uncontacted tribes.© Survival

Iconic actress, author and activist Gillian Anderson said: “The fight for the rights of uncontacted tribes is such an important struggle. It’s about a fundamental principle: their right to determine their own futures and live as they choose, rather than have the outside world take that right away from them.”

Acclaimed film and theater actor Sir Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar in 2016 for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies said: “It’s vital that we protect the rights of uncontacted tribes. Not only are they the most vulnerable people on the planet, but they’re also a vital part of humankind’s diversity. Their knowledge is irreplaceable, and they deserve the right to live as they wish on the land where they have survived for thousands of years.”

Uncontacted tribes are not backward and primitive relics of a remote past. They are our contemporaries. Where their rights are respected, they continue to thrive.

Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance with Yanomami leader Davi Yanomami.Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance with Yanomami leader Davi Yanomami.© Survival

They are also the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “It’s simple, uncontacted tribes face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Without a global movement fighting for their rights, they simply will not survive into the next generation. We’re grateful for the energy and enthusiasm of Mark and Gillian, who understand this urgency. With their film, we can make the call to let uncontacted tribes live too loud to ignore."

Brazilian politicians push for shutdown of Indian Affairs Department

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 08:16
Major indigenous protests in Brasilia, May 2017Major indigenous protests in Brasilia, May 2017© VOA

An inquiry established by Brazilian parliamentarians who represent the powerful agribusiness lobby has just published a report calling for the closure of the Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI.

Its findings have been met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond. Francisco Runja, a Kaingang spokesman said: “Killing off FUNAI is tantamount to killing us, the indigenous peoples. FUNAI is a crucial institution for us; our survival; our resistance; and it’s a guarantee of the demarcation of our traditional territories.”

The report attacks indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International.

It alleges that FUNAI has become a “hostage to external interests” and calls for dozens of its officials to be prosecuted for backing what it calls “illegal demarcations” of tribal territories.

Yesterday a group of 50 Indians was barred from attending the session in congress discussing the inquiry.

The inquiry took 500 days and the report is over 3,300 pages long. It is a blatant attack on indigenous peoples and a crude and biased attempt to destroy their hard-won constitutional rights.

It was headed by politicians representing Brazil’s powerful agri-businesses who have long coveted indigenous territories for their own financial gain.

Photo of a Gamela victim of the attack.Photo of a Gamela victim of the attack.© Anon

One member, congressman Luis Carlos Heinze, received Survival’s Racist of the Year award in 2014 following his deeply offensive remarks about Brazilian Indians, homosexuals, and black people.

Another member, congressman Alceu Moreira, called for the eviction of tribal people attempting to reoccupy their ancestral lands.

The increasingly hostile, anti-indigenous climate in many sectors in congress is fuelling violence against indigenous peoples. Last month, 22 Gamela Indians were injured following a brutal attack at the hands of local landowners’ gunmen.

FUNAI has suffered severe budget cuts, which have resulted in the grounding of several teams responsible for protecting uncontacted tribes’ territories. This effectively leaves the most some of the most vulnerable people on the planet to the mercy of armed loggers and land grabbers.

The organization has been greatly weakened. Many staff have been made redundant, and political appointees now run key departments.

In the last five months, it has had three presidents. Earlier this month the second president, Antonio Costa was dismissed. In a press conference he strongly criticized President Temer and Osmar Serraglio, the Minister of Justice, stating that they “not only want to finish off FUNAI, but also public policies such as demarcation of [indigenous] land… This is very serious.”

Yanomami shaman and spokesman Davi Kopenawa said: “FUNAI is broken… it is already dead. They killed it. It only exists in name. A nice name, but it doesn’t have the power to help us.”

Indian authorities harass tribal leaders

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 05:56
The Dongria have resisted attempts to mine in their hills for years, but are facing serious pressure to give inThe Dongria have resisted attempts to mine in their hills for years, but are facing serious pressure to give in© Survival

The Indian government is harassing and attempting to silence the leaders of the Dongria Kondh tribe, famous for winning a “David and Goliath” court battle against a British mining giant.

The Dongria’s resistance to mining on their lands has continued since their landmark victory in 2014. Leaders including Dodi Pusika feel that the risk of mining remains as long as a refinery is operational at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, an area which the tribe have been dependent on and managed for generations. A recent protest at the refinery was met with a baton-charge from police.

Pusika’s daughter-in-law, Kuni Sikaka, was arrested in the middle of the night of May 3 and accused of links with armed Maoist rebels. In exchange for her release, Dodi Pusika and other members of his family were made to “surrender” as Maoists and paraded in front of the media.

There has been an alarming increase in arbitrary, politically motivated arrests of tribal people who are resisting mining operations or government policies which endanger their lands and communities. Typically, those arrested are accused of Maoist links – usually without evidence.

Human rights activist and doctor Binayak Sen and tribal teacher Soni Sori have both been imprisoned for alleged Maoist connections and only subsequently released after national and international campaigns.

In April, the Home Ministry issued a report claiming that Maoists were “guiding the activities” of the Dongria’s organization, the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS). On the contrary, Maoists instructed the Dongria to boycott the very meetings at which they delivered their decisive “no” to mining.

Lingaraj Azad, a member of the NSS, stated, ‘We have always opposed violence – either State violence or Maoist violence. We will not bow down, but continue our struggle to protect Niyamgiri from being mined.’

Survival is calling on the government to drop these fabricated charges, stop this persecution of the Dongria Kondh, respect their decision about the Niyamgiri mine, and to uphold their right to protect their lands and determine their own futures.

Twentieth anniversary of eviction from Kalahari highlights Bushmen plight

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 03:56
Many Bushmen were moved to a government resettlement camp called New Xade in 1997Many Bushmen were moved to a government resettlement camp called New Xade in 1997© Noam Schimmel/Survival

Twenty years ago today, hundreds of Bushmen were ordered to abandon their homes deep in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

This was the first in a wave of evictions by the government, determined to open up their ancestral homes to diamond mining and tourism.

The Bushmen of Xade community were given no warning and were ordered to leave their homes immediately. They were herded onto trucks and those who refused to do so were told they would be shot by the army.

Along with force, underhand tactics were employed: some Bushman children and their teachers were moved earlier, forcing anxious parents to follow them to the eviction camp, New Xade, which they soon dubbed “the Place of Death”.

Life here, as witnessed by Survival campaigners and much of the world’s media, was bleak. Bushmen were housed in tents like refugees and were totally reliant on handouts from the government.

Many succumbed to HIV/AIDS and alcoholism introduced by outsiders, who flocked to the camp to profit from the Bushmen’s meager compensation money.

From resilient hunters and gatherers with a strong sense of independence and identity, the Bushmen were reduced to a life of boredom, depression and hopelessness which continues to this day.

For many observers, the government’s inhumane treatment of Botswana’s first people echoed neighboring South Africa’s apartheid regime, where black communities were systemically evicted from their homes and dumped into crowded slums on the outskirts of the cities.

This was the latest chapter in centuries of persecution of southern Africa’s Bushman peoples by white colonists and Bantu peoples.

Bushmen celebrate the landmark court ruling in 2006. More than a decade on, many still languish in govenrment camps.Bushmen celebrate the landmark court ruling in 2006. More than a decade on, many still languish in govenrment camps.© Survival International

Twenty years on, however, there have been some positive changes. Bushmen evicted from the reserve in 2002 won a landmark case with support from Survival International in 2006 in Botswana’s high court. The court ruled that they had been illegally evicted and had the right to live and hunt in the reserve.

Today, hundreds of Bushmen have left the hated eviction camps and returned home. However, they continue to face harassment, beatings, and torture by wildlife scouts when they exercise their legal right to hunt.

As Bushman spokesman Jumanda Gakelebone explains: “Bushmen are not poachers. We hunt to survive, we don’t kill animals in large quantities. We get what we want to survive.”

Families are still being broken up, as the government says that only individuals who were applicants in the high court ruling are allowed to return to the CKGR. When their children turn 18, they have to get permits to visit their families in the reserve. This is causing enormous distress and hardship.

Bushmen are worried that their land may be opened up to more exploration without their consent. Although the diamond mine in the Bushman community of Gope in the reserve has been scaled back recently, last month the government gave new diamond prospecting licenses to a joint Russian-British mining venture.

In the last few years, the government has also given out fracking licenses in the CKGR.

As one Bushman told Survival: “Giving companies clearance to extract natural resources is at our expense and is against our human rights.”

Survival is continuing to campaign for the rights of the Bushmen, having launched a global push in 2016, to coincide with the country’s fiftieth anniversary.

Horrific: Ranchers attack and mutilate Indians who demanded their land back

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 03:46
This cellphone photo shows the ranchers on their way to attack the Gamela. A police car accompanies them.This cellphone photo shows the ranchers on their way to attack the Gamela. A police car accompanies them.© CIMI

Thirteen Brazilian Indians have been hospitalized after a brutally violent attack by men armed with machetes in the Amazon.

One man appears to have had his arms severed in disturbing photos released to Survival International.

The attack was in retaliation for the Gamela Indians’ campaign to recover a small part of their ancestral territory. Their land has been invaded and destroyed by ranchers, loggers and land grabbers, forcing the Gamela to live squeezed on a tiny patch of land. The Gamela are indigenous to the area in Maranhão state in northern Brazil.  

Powerful agribusiness interests – reportedly including the Sarney landowning family – have been in conflict with the tribe for some time. The family includes a former president of Brazil and a former governor of Maranhão state.

Eyewitnesses say that the ranchers gathered at a barbecue to get drunk, before surrounding the Gamela camp, firing guns, and then attacking with machetes, causing grievous injuries. Local police are reported to have stood by and allowed the attack to happen.

The Gamela have received death threats in response to their attempts to return to their land. In a declaration released by Brazilian NGO CIMI, they said: “People are mistaken if they think that by killing us they’ll put a stop to our fight. If they kill us, we will just grow again, like seeds… Neither fear nor the ranchers’ bullets can stop us.”

The attack came just days after massive indigenous protests in Brazil’s capital against proposed changes to Brazil’s indigenous laws, which could have disastrous consequences for tribal peoples.

Land theft is the biggest problem tribal peoples face. Around the world, industrialized society is stealing tribal lands in the pursuit of profit.

Campaigners fear that the close ties between Brazil’s agribusiness lobby and the Temer government installed after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 could lead to further genocidal violence and racism against Brazilian tribal peoples.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Right now, we’re witnessing the biggest assault on Brazilian Indians for the last two generations. This truly horrific attack is symptomatic of a sustained and brutal onslaught which is annihilating indigenous communities across the country. Heinous acts like this won’t end until the perpetrators are prosecuted and Brazil starts enforcing tribal land rights as it should do under national and international law.”

WWF wins Survival’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 02:20
Widespread logging has been an acute problem for rainforest tribes for many years.Widespread logging has been an acute problem for rainforest tribes for many years.© Margaret Wilson/Survival

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has won Survival International’s “Greenwashing of the Year” award for partnering with seven companies logging nearly 4 million hectares of forests belonging to the Baka and Bayaka “Pygmies” in central Africa.

The award is given to companies or organizations who dress up the destruction of tribal peoples’ forests as conservation.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), based at the Bronx Zoo in New York, has been named as runner-up, also for its activities in the Congo Basin. It has partnered with two logging companies, neither of which have obtained the consent of the tribal peoples in the areas in which they work.

WWF describes logging companies as “forest operators.” According to WWF, its partnerships with these companies are intended to “advance sustainable forest management”.

In reality, however, all of WWF’s partners have been accused of illegal logging and none have received the consent of the Baka and Bayaka “Pygmies.” A recent study found that approaches like WWF’s have failed to slow the break-up of the Congo Basin rainforest.

This picture was taken by Baka “Pygmies” in late 2016 when they reported finding Rougier employees logging illegally on their land.This picture was taken by Baka “Pygmies” in late 2016 when they reported finding Rougier employees logging illegally on their land.© Survival

In a 2011 report, the environmental NGO Global Witness said that the partnerships “allow some… member companies to reap the benefits of association with WWF and its iconic Panda brand while continuing unsustainable logging, conversion of forests to plantations, or trading in illegally sourced timber.”

The partnerships also violate WWF’s own policy on indigenous peoples, which requires all projects to be undertaken with the full consent of tribal communities.

Baka and other tribes have been forcibly removed from much of their ancestral land, and forced to live on roadsides.Baka and other tribes have been forcibly removed from much of their ancestral land, and forced to live on roadsides.© Survival International

A Baka man said: “It’s the Baka’s forest, which we’ve conserved for a long time. It’s the loggers who bring guns and their brothers who hunt all the animals.”

A Baka woman added that “we need to fight against this because our forest is being finished off completely.”

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “WWF’s supporters might be surprised to learn that it’s working so closely with the loggers who are destroying one of Earth’s great rainforests. Congo Basin tribes, the original guardians, are being pushed aside and their societies wrecked. Across Africa and Asia, the big conservation organizations partner with industry and tourism and destroy the environment’s best allies. It’s a con, and it’s harming conservation. Perhaps this “award” might encourage people inside WWF and WCS to put pressure on their organizations for reform. It’s time to listen to tribal conservationists.”

Watch: Baka ‘Pygmy’ speaks out against destructive loggers

Note to editors: WWF has partnered with: Bolloré Group, Danzer Group, Decolvenaere Group, Pasquet Group, Rougier Group, SEFAC Group and Vicwood Group. WCS has partnered with Danzer Group and the Olam Group. Full report here.

“Pygmy” is an umbrella term commonly used to refer to the hunter-gatherer peoples of the Congo Basin and elsewhere in Central Africa. The word is considered pejorative and avoided by some tribespeople, but used by others as a convenient and easily recognized way of describing themselves.

Brazil: Government abandons uncontacted tribes to loggers and ranchers

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 02:23
Uncontacted tribes, like this one pictured in aerial footage seen around the world in 2011, now face genocidal attacks as Brazil’s government slashes funding for protection of their land.Uncontacted tribes, like this one pictured in aerial footage seen around the world in 2011, now face genocidal attacks as Brazil’s government slashes funding for protection of their land.© G.Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

All the government units currently protecting Brazil’s uncontacted tribes from invasion by loggers and ranchers could be withdrawn, according to information leaked to Survival International. The move would constitute the biggest threat to uncontacted Amazon tribes for a generation.

Agents from FUNAI, the country’s indigenous affairs department, perform a vital role in protecting uncontacted territories from loggers, ranchers, miners and other invaders. Some teams are already being withdrawn, and further withdrawals are planned for the near future.

Thousands of invaders are likely to rush into the territories once protection is removed.

There are estimated to be over 100 uncontacted tribes in Brazil, well over two-thirds of the global population of uncontacted people. Many of them live in indigenous territories, which total over 54.3 million hectares of protected rainforest, an area about the size of France.

These territories are guarded by just 19 dedicated FUNAI teams. It is possible that all 19 teams could be eliminated from the Brazilian state budget, despite the fact that money spent maintaining these teams is equal to the average salaries and benefits paid to just two Brazilian congressmen per year.

FUNAI agents in Brazil. Ground teams work full-time to keep invaders out of uncontacted tribal territory, but this vital protection could be withdrawn.FUNAI agents in Brazil. Ground teams work full-time to keep invaders out of uncontacted tribal territory, but this vital protection could be withdrawn.© Mário Vilela/FUNAI

The proposals are the latest in a long list of actions from the Temer government, which came to power in 2016 after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, that could have catastrophic consequences for indigenous peoples.

Indigenous activist Sonia Guajajara said: “By cutting down the FUNAI budget, the government is declaring the extinction of indigenous people.”

Paulo Marubo, an indigenous man from the Javari Valley in Brazil’s Amazon said: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”

Indigenous protestors in Brasilia, Brazil.Indigenous protestors in Brasilia, Brazil.© Fabio Nascimento / Mobilização Nacional Indígena

Campaigners have suggested that the government’s close ties to Brazil’s powerful ranching and agribusiness lobbies – which consider indigenous territories to be a barrier to their own expansion – could be part of the reason for the proposal.

Major indigenous protests are taking place this week in Brasilia against government proposals to water down protection for indigenous rights.

Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

Survival International is leading the global fight for uncontacted tribes’ right to their land, and to determine their own futures.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Cuts in government budgets to protect uncontacted tribes are clearly nothing to do with money – the sums involved are tiny. It’s a political move from agribusiness which sees uncontacted tribes as a barrier to profit and is targeting rainforest which has been off-limits to development. The reality is these cuts could sanction genocide.”

Simon McBurney partners with Survival International for theatrical special in San Francisco

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 05:03
Survival ambassador Simon McBurneySurvival ambassador Simon McBurney© BBC

Survival International is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Curran Theater in San Francisco, which is set to host Survival International ambassador Simon McBurney’s hit one-man play “The Encounter”.

Survival will hold a special evening on April 27 for supporters at the Curran from 6.30 pm PST. This will include a private drinks reception and a discussion with Simon McBurney and Survival USA co-ordinator Tesia Bobrycki after the show, about tribal peoples’ rights.

Simon McBurney is an acclaimed actor, writer, and director, and founder of the multi-award winning Complicite theater company. He became a Survival International ambassador in 2017.

Simon is a long-standing Survival supporter with an interest in indigenous rights and environmental causes. He devised “The Encounter,” based on a book by Petru Popescu, after spending time in the Amazon with indigenous peoples. This experience developed his interest in Survival’s work.

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air during a Brazilian government expedition in 2010.Uncontacted Indians in Brazil seen from the air during a Brazilian government expedition in 2010.© G.Miranda/FUNAI/Survival

“The Encounter” addresses many of the issues affecting the Matsés people from the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, many of whom were forcibly contacted by missionaries in 1969. Some members of the tribe are still uncontacted.

The play traces a journey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest, using 3D audio technology to build an intimate and shifting world of sound.

Details can be found on the Curran theater website.

Simon McBurney performs in experimental one-man show 'The Encounter' about the tribal peoples of the Javari Valley.Simon McBurney performs in experimental one-man show 'The Encounter' about the tribal peoples of the Javari Valley.© Gianmarco Bresadola

Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. We know very little about them. But we do know there are more than a hundred around the world. And we know whole populations are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

Survival International is leading the global fight for uncontacted tribes’ right to determine their own futures.

Survival Director Stephen Corry said: “The Encounter is a bravura piece of story-telling which plunges you deep into the Amazon. It’s an experience that brings the Amazon and its people – usually so remote from us – vividly to life, and we’re delighted to join up with the Curran Theater and Simon McBurney to bring our urgent message to a new audience.”

Note: Survival supporters get 20% off tickets to THE ENCOUNTER and a free tote bag by using the offer code SURVIVALINTL at this link

Earth Day: Eight amazing facts that prove tribal people are the best conservationists

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 03:09
Traditionally, small ‘Pygmy’ communities moved frequently through forest territories, gathering a vast range of forest products, collecting and exchanging goods with neighboring settled societies.Traditionally, small ‘Pygmy’ communities moved frequently through forest territories, gathering a vast range of forest products, collecting and exchanging goods with neighboring settled societies.© Selcen Kucukustel/Atlas

For Earth Day (April 22), Survival International reveals some of the amazing ways in which tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world:

1. The Baka “Pygmies” have over 15 words for elephant
The Baka people know so much about elephants, they have different words for them according to their sex, age and even temperament.

Studies have shown how the Baka in many areas live alongside high densities of endangered species. One Baka man told Survival: “We know when and where the poachers are in the forest but no one will listen to us.” Instead of tackling the causes of environmental destruction, conservation projects expose people like the Baka to harassment and beatings, torture and death.

2. The Kogi have helped restore a once-degraded area of land
The Kogi tribe from Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains acquired some land – a tiny piece of their ancestral territory – in 2012 with the help of a small conservation team. Since then, conservationists report that vegetation has grown back, waters have been decontaminated, and lakes that had been filled with trash are turning into “beautiful freshwater lagoons.“

Baiga woman from Kanha Tiger Reserve, India 2013.Baiga woman from Kanha Tiger Reserve, India 2013.© Survival International, 2013

3. The Baiga have restored over 600 acres of forest around just one village
In the village of Dhaba in central India, Baiga tribal villagers became concerned that the local forest department were cutting down too many trees, supposedly to stop the spread of a pest. They protested and physically intervened, placing themselves between the forest officials and the trees.

Their protest succeeded, and now several tree species like the char, mahuli, and bamboo have regenerated around the village. The Baiga planted many of the trees themselves.

4. Tukano shamans set hunting quotas for their tribe
A major anthropological study noted that Tukano shamans in Colombia take an active role in controlling their tribe’s hunting activities. They take counts of how many animals are being killed, and prohibit hunting in certain areas where they think population density is getting low.

5. The Soliga control invasive plant species through selective use of fire
India’s Soliga tribe used to light small fires to clear land for sustainable agriculture. Since that practice was banned in the name of conservation, local ecosystems have deteriorated, because an invasive weed species called lantana has been allowed to take over. One Soliga man said: “The Forest Department don’t have the conservation knowledge. We conserved the forest for many years. They don’t know how to protect our forest.”

The Awá hunt on their ancestral land in the northeastern Amazon in Brazil.The Awá hunt on their ancestral land in the northeastern Amazon in Brazil.© Survival International

6. The Awá don’t hunt certain species, to maintain ecosystem balance
Brazil’s Awá people live by hunting and foraging in the northeast of the Amazon rainforest. However, it is taboo for Awá hunters to kill certain animals, including endangered harpy eagles, hummingbirds, and capybaras. The Awá have a deep understanding of the environment and their place within it.

Arariboia indigenous territory in the Amazon, an island of green surrounded by deforestation.Arariboia indigenous territory in the Amazon, an island of green surrounded by deforestation.© Survival

7. Tribal territories are the best barriers against Amazon deforestation
Look at this satellite image And this one. And this one as well. All of them show protected tribal territories in Brazil’s Amazon – islands of green surrounded by deforestation. When you protect tribal land rights, you protect the rainforest. Simple.

8. The Orang Asli create habitats and food for animals by gardening
Orang Asli fruit gardens in the Krau wildlife reserve in Malaysia encourage many animals, including large mammals, into their area. They provide food and even act as the main seed dispersers, fulfilling a role once performed by elephants and rhinos, which have now disappeared from the area. Small-scale tribal agriculture often enhances biodiversity.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Tribal peoples have managed their environments for millennia and there’s now plenty of evidence to prove that they’re better at looking after them than anyone else. This isn’t “noble savagery”, it’s scientific fact. If we want to help the environment, it’s time we put tribal peoples at the forefront of the conservation movement. If we want to save the rainforest, for example, we must fight to ensure it’s kept in the hands of its tribes.”

Breaking: Worldwide protest for tribes’ land and human rights

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 03:28
Ladio Veron, Guarani activist, and son of Marcos Veron, at an event in Madrid in 2017Ladio Veron, Guarani activist, and son of Marcos Veron, at an event in Madrid in 2017© Alienor de Sas / Survival

Survival International is planning a global wave of protest against the destruction of tribal peoples’ land, lives, and human rights, on Brazil’s Day of the Indian (April 19).

Survival supporters and members of the public will demonstrate at the Brazilian embassy in London, demanding land rights for the Guarani and other tribes across the country. They will be joined by Guarani activist Ladio Veron.

Where: Brazilian embassy, 14-16 Cockspur St, London, SW1Y 5BL
When: 9:30 until 10:30am, April 19, 2017

Protest actions are also taking place in Brazil, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Ranchers and agribusiness have forced the Guarani off their ancestral land in central Brazil into lives of poverty. Many are forced to live on roadsides, drinking polluted water and living in makeshift camps.

The Guarani people are determined to fight for their land and rights, and frequently protest.The Guarani people are determined to fight for their land and rights, and frequently protest.© CIMI/Survival

Their plight has been described by the UN as a humanitarian crisis. The tribe also suffers the highest suicide rate in the world.

Ladio Veron is currently touring Europe to raise awareness of his people’s plight. He said of the Guarani’s campaign to return to their ancestral land: “We will resist at any price. All we have left to lose is our lives.”

The Guarani face harassment by gunmen hired by ranchers and other powerful vested interests on an almost daily basis. When they try to reoccupy the land which is rightfully theirs under Brazilian and international law, they frequently suffer violent reprisals.

Tribes nationwide are forcefully opposing a wave of anti-indigenous proposals currently being debated by politicians. If passed into law, they could give anti-Indian landowners the chance to block the recognition of new indigenous territories, and break up and steal existing ones. This would be disastrous for Brazilian tribes, and could lead to uncontacted tribes being wiped out.

Survival International is leading the global fight for tribal peoples’ land rights. The theft of tribal land destroys self-sufficient peoples and their diverse ways of life. It causes disease, destitution and suicide. The evidence is indisputable.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The assault on Brazilian Indians is back with a vengeance. Tribal people are dying as Brazilian politicians deliberately allow ranchers and soya barons to steal and destroy Indian territory. The key to tribal peoples’ survival and prosperity is to ensure their land remains under their control. We are doing everything we can to secure it for them.”

Photos will be available through the news section of Survival’s website shortly after the protest.

Revealed: Genocidal plot to open up territory of uncontacted Amazon tribe

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 02:19
The last of the Kawahiva are forced to live on the run. Still image from unique footage taken by government agents during a chance encounter.The last of the Kawahiva are forced to live on the run. Still image from unique footage taken by government agents during a chance encounter.© FUNAI

Survival International has learned that politicians from a notoriously violent town in Brazil are lobbying behind the scenes to open up the territory of a vulnerable uncontacted tribe.

Councillors from Colniza in central Brazil, which is dominated by illegal logging and ranching and for years was Brazil’s most violent town, have met the Minister of Justice to lobby for the Rio Pardo indigenous territory to be drastically reduced in size. The minister is reportedly sympathetic to the councillors’ proposals.

Their plan is for road-builders, loggers, ranchers and soya farmers to move in, despite the territory being home to the last of the Kawahiva tribe, one of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.

Armed loggers and powerful ranchers are razing the Kawahiva's forest to the ground.Armed loggers and powerful ranchers are razing the Kawahiva's forest to the ground.© FUNAI

The Kawahiva depend entirely on the rainforest for survival, and have been on the run from loggers and other invaders for years.

The Rio Pardo territory was only recognized in 2016, following a global campaign by Survival International and pressure within Brazil.

Thousands of Survival supporters contacted the then-Minister of Justice demanding action. Oscar-winning actor and Survival ambassador Sir Mark Rylance fronted a major media push, culminating in the signing of the decree that should have secured the Indians’ territory for good.

Now, however, vested interests in the region could undo much of that progress.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “Brazil must respect the rights of its tribal peoples. Uncontacted peoples, like the Kawahiva, clearly want to be left alone and to live as they please. But Brazil’s current leaders are holding closed-door meetings with corrupt politicians, and kowtowing to the agribusiness lobby, expressly to deny them that right. The stakes could not be higher – entire peoples are facing genocide as a result of this callous approach.”

Background briefing

The Kawahiva are hunter-gatherers, who migrate from camp to camp through the Rio Pardo rainforest.

Roads, ranches and logging all risk exposing them to violence from outsiders who steal their lands and resources, and to diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is leading the global fight to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures.

The current Brazilian government is attempting to roll back decades of gradual progress in the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the country. The Minister of Justice recently said: “Enough of all this talk of land [demarcation] – land doesn’t fill anyone’s stomach.” And the new head of Indigenous Affairs Department FUNAI has said “Indians can’t be ‘fixed in time.’”

Survival calls on UN to condemn shoot on sight conservation

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 02:35
Dozens of people have been shot on sight by park guards in Kaziranga, including severely disabled tribal man Gaonbura KillingDozens of people have been shot on sight by park guards in Kaziranga, including severely disabled tribal man Gaonbura Killing© BBC

Survival International has called on the UN expert on extrajudicial executions to condemn shoot on sight conservation policies.

In a letter to the Special Rapporteur charged with the issue, Survival stated that “shoot on sight policies directly affect tribal people who live in or adjacent to ‘protected areas’… particularly when park guards so often fail to distinguish subsistence hunters from commercial poachers.”

The letter adds that “nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against [suspected poachers], and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason. Many countries have gone further, and granted wildlife officers immunity from prosecution.”

The letter cites Kaziranga National Park in India as an especially striking example of the tactic. According to a recent BBC report, an estimated 106 people have been extrajudicially executed there in the last 20 years, including one disabled tribal man who had wandered over the park boundary to retrieve cattle.

Kaziranga guards have effective legal immunity from prosecution, and have admitted that they are instructed to shoot poaching suspects on sight. This has had serious consequences for tribal peoples living around the park. In June 2016, a seven-year-old tribal boy was shot and maimed for life by guards.

Akash Orang is comforted by his mother after being shot by a park guard. He is now severely disabled.Akash Orang is comforted by his mother after being shot by a park guard. He is now severely disabled.© BBC

Similar policies are used in other parts of the world, notably Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, among other African countries.

Speaking about his own anti-poaching work in Africa, poaching expert Rory Young from the organization Chengeta said: ”Shoot on sight is stupid. If we had been shooting on sight during this latest sting operation we would have shot a handful of poachers and that would have been the end of it. Every single poacher is an opportunity for information to get more poachers and work your way up the chain to the ringleaders.”

Survival has asked the Special Rapporteur to clarify that shoot on sight violates fundamental rights enshrined in the UN’s Civil and Political Rights Covenant and other international conventions. It also urges the UN to enquire about the policy with the Indian government, and the government of Assam state, where Kaziranga is located.

Shoot on sight is justified on the grounds that it helps to deter poachers. However, there have been several recent cases of guards and officials at Kaziranga being arrested for involvement in the illegal wildlife trade themselves.

Survival International is leading the fight against these abuses, and calling for a new conservation model that respects tribal peoples. Targeting tribal people diverts action away from tackling the true poachers – criminals conspiring with corrupt officials. Targeting tribal people harms conservation.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “If any other industry was guilty of this level of human rights abuses, there would be an international outcry. Why the silence when conservationists are involved? Torture and extrajudical killing is never justified – the law is clear on this. Some people think that the death of innocents is justified, that ‘collateral damage’ is necessary in the fight against poaching. We ask them, where is your humanity? Of course, there’s a racist element at play here: Shoot on sight policies would be unthinkable in North America or Europe.”

Guarani community in Brazil threatened by masked men

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 05:56
Members from the Takuara community stand by the grave of Marcos Veron, the Guarani leader of this community who was beaten and killed by ranchers' gunmen, while attempting to peacefully return to his land in 2003. Members from the Takuara community stand by the grave of Marcos Veron, the Guarani leader of this community who was beaten and killed by ranchers' gunmen, while attempting to peacefully return to his land in 2003. © Sarah Shenker/Survival

Survival has received disturbing reports that a Guarani community in Brazil has been threatened by masked men, possibly belonging to Brazil’s airforce.

According to the Guarani Kaiowá, a helicopter landed in the community of Takuara on 25 March.

One eyewitness reported that masked men descended and made a group of Indians kneel down. The men threatened to kill them if they tried to run away, while two more helicopters circled above the community.

The incident occurred two weeks after community spokesman, Ladio Veron, arrived in Europe on a speaking tour, to denounce the critical situation of the Guarani tribe in Brazil.

Ladio Veron, Guarani activist and son of Marcos Veron, speaking in Madrid in 2017Ladio Veron, Guarani activist and son of Marcos Veron, speaking in Madrid in 2017© Alienor de Sas / Survival

Ladio is the son of the renowned Guarani Kaiowá leader Marcos Veron, who was beaten to death in January 2003 after he led the community back on to part of their ancestral land.

Following her visit to the Guarani last year, the UN’s top expert on indigenous peoples’ rights strongly condemned the Brazilian government’s failure to protect the tribe.

The Guarani are subject to genocidal violence and racism as their lands and resources are stolen in the name of “progress” and “civilization.”

Most of their land has been stolen from them by Brazil’s agri-business industry which is determined that none should be returned to them – in defiance of the constitution, which recognizes indigenous peoples’ right to their ancestral lands.

The situation facing the Guarani is one of the most urgent and horrific humanitarian crises of our time. In April 2016, Survival International launched its “Stop Brazil’s Genocide” campaign to draw the crisis to global attention.

Survival is also campaigning against a proposal to change Brazil’s constitution, known as PEC 215. The measure would give anti-Indian landowners the chance to block the recognition of new indigenous territories – and might even enable them to break up existing ones. This would be disastrous for Brazilian tribes, because land is the key to their survival. Without it, none of their human rights can be realized. Tribes such as the Guarani fear this would mean they’d never recover the land that was stolen from them.

Talks begin at last over fate of uncontacted tribe

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 03:10
The Ayoreo blocking the Pan-American Highway to protest against land invasionThe Ayoreo blocking the Pan-American Highway to protest against land invasion© GAT/ Survival

• The area is home to the last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon

• It has the highest deforestation rate in the world

Efforts to protect the territory of a vulnerable uncontacted tribe from rampant illegal deforestation have received a boost with the opening of talks between the Paraguayan government and tribal representatives.

The uncontacted Ayoreo are the last uncontacted Indians outside the Amazon. Their territory, in western Paraguay, has the highest deforestation rate in the world.

Contacted members of the tribe submitted a formal land claim in 1993, with support from local organization GAT. Since then vast swathes of their forest have been destroyed.

The talks are the result of a formal request, submitted by local organization GAT to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), for the land be returned to its rightful indigenous owners.

Government representatives will meet monthly with Ayoreo leaders for one year, in a process overseen by a U.N. official.

The Ayoreo’s territory is occupied by a number of companies that are deforesting the land to make way for cattle. These include Brazilian ranching enterprise Yaguarete Porá S.A and Carlos Casado S.A (a subsidiary of Spanish construction company Grupo San José).

An unknown number of Ayoreo remain uncontacted. They live on the run, fleeing the rapid destruction of their forest home.

Many, however, have already been forced out of their territory by outsiders. A number of them have contracted a mysterious TB-like disease which has killed several members of the tribe.

In February 2016, the IACHR issued an emergency injunction ordering the Paraguayan government to stop any further deforestation and protect the vulnerable uncontacted Indians living in the region. The government, however, has not complied with the order. A recent satellite image shows that in 2016, the forests were still being cleared.

Illegal deforestation by ranching companies continued on Ayoreo land throughout 2016.Illegal deforestation by ranching companies continued on Ayoreo land throughout 2016.© GAT

Ayoreo land is some of the last remaining intact forest left in Paraguay.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The government has ignored the Ayoreo for far too long. If real progress is not made this year, their uncontacted relatives could soon be wiped out. The Ayoreo are best placed to protect their forest homes. Destroying the Ayoreo will also destroy some of the most biodiverse land in Paraguay.”

Background Briefing

- Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Whole populations are being wiped out by genocidal violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
- They are the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.
- Ayoreo land is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
- It is estimated that over 14 million trees are being cut down every month in Paraguay.
- The U.N. has found that the Ayoreo are in a ‘state of emergency’ and has warned that the government’s failure to return the land to its rightful owners puts the Indians’ lives in great danger.

Exclusive: Oil company pulls out of uncontacted tribes’ land under pressure from Survival

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 03:31
Salomon Dunu, a Matsés man who survived the trauma of first contact, speaks to a Survival campaigner about the threat of oil exploration to his people. A video of Salomon has been seen by over 4 million people through Survival’s Facebook page.Salomon Dunu, a Matsés man who survived the trauma of first contact, speaks to a Survival campaigner about the threat of oil exploration to his people. A video of Salomon has been seen by over 4 million people through Survival’s Facebook page.© Survival

A Canadian oil company has told Survival International it will withdraw from the territory of several uncontacted tribes in the Amazon where it had been intending to explore for oil.

The company, Pacific E&P, had previously been awarded the right to explore for oil in a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a region of immense biodiversity which is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth. It began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012.

The move follows years of campaigning by Survival International and several Peruvian indigenous organizations, including AIDESEP, ORPIO, and ORAU. ORPIO is suing the government over the threat of oil exploration.

Thousands of Survival supporters had protested by sending emails to the company’s CEO, lobbying the Peruvian government, and contacting the company through social media.

Survival also released an open letter, protesting against the threat of oil exploration, which was signed by Rainforest Foundation Norway and ORPIO. Sustained campaigning helped bring attention to the issue within Peru and around the world.

The Matsés have been dependent on and managed a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier for generations.The Matsés have been dependent on and managed a large area of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier for generations.© Christopher Pillitz

In the letter Pacific E&P’s Institutional Relations and Sustainability Manager said that: “”[The company] has made the decision to relinquish its exploration rights in Block 135… effective immediately… We wish to reiterate the company’s commitment to conduct its operations under the highest sustainability and human rights guidelines.”

At a tribal meeting in late 2016, a man from the Matsés tribe, which was forced into contact in the late 20th century, said: “I don’t want my children to be destroyed by oil and war. That’s why we’re defending ourselves… and why we Matsés have come together. The oil companies … are insulting us and we won’t stay silent as they exploit us on our homeland. If it’s necessary, we’ll die in the war against oil.”

Oil exploration involves sustained land invasion which can dramatically increase the risk of forced contact with uncontacted tribes. It leaves them vulnerable to violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and to diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.

The announcement that it was not going ahead was welcomed by campaigners as significant in the fight to protect uncontacted peoples’ lives, lands and human rights.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “This is great news for the global campaign for uncontacted tribes and all those who wish to halt the genocide that has swept across the Americas since the arrival of Columbus. All uncontacted peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected but we believe they are a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity and deserve their right to life to be upheld. We will continue to lead the fight to let them live.”

The region includes the Sierra del Divisor, or “Watershed Mountains,” a unique and highly biodiverse region known for its cone-shaped peaks.The region includes the Sierra del Divisor, or “Watershed Mountains,” a unique and highly biodiverse region known for its cone-shaped peaks.© Diego Perez

Background briefing
▪ Oil block 135 is within the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve. Peru’s national Indian organization AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for over 14 years.
▪ Part of the oil concession is within the newly created Sierra del Divisor national park. The Peruvian government had awarded Pacific E&P rights to explore within the park.
▪ The Yavarí Tapiche region is part of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. This area straddles the borders of Peru and Brazil and is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else in the world.
▪ Peru has ratified ILO 169, the international law for tribal peoples, which requires it to protect tribal land rights.
▪ We know very little about the uncontacted tribes in the area. Some are presumed to be Matsés, but there are likely to be other uncontacted nomadic peoples in the region.

The Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a large area on the Peru-Brazil border that is home to the highest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world.The Amazon Uncontacted Frontier, a large area on the Peru-Brazil border that is home to the highest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world.© Survival International

Uncontacted tribes are not backward and primitive relics of a remote past. They are our contemporaries and a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity. Where their rights are respected, they continue to thrive.

Their knowledge is irreplaceable and has been developed over thousands of years. They are the best guardians of their environment. And evidence proves that tribal territories are the best barrier to deforestation.

All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is leading the global fight to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures.

Organizations denounce Peru government’s failure to protect uncontacted tribes

Thu, 03/09/2017 - 03:11
The Matsés have denounced oil exploration in the proposed Yavarí Tapiche reserve, which is part of their ancestral lands.The Matsés have denounced oil exploration in the proposed Yavarí Tapiche reserve, which is part of their ancestral lands.© Survival International

In an open letter to the Peruvian authorities, Survival International, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Peruvian indigenous organization ORPIO have denounced the Peruvian government’s failure to protect uncontacted tribes.

The organizations are calling for the government to create an indigenous reserve, known as Yavari-Tapiche, for uncontacted tribes along the Peru-Brazil border, and to put a stop to outsiders entering the territory.

In the letter the three organizations state: “Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. They have made the decision to be isolated and this must be respected…

“The Yavarí Tapiche region is home to uncontacted peoples. Despite knowing of their existence and enormous vulnerability, the government has failed to guarantee their protection…

“These tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Only by creating the proposed Yavarí Tapiche indigenous reserve and implementing effective protection mechanisms that prevent the entry of outsiders, will the indigenous people be given the chance to determine their own futures…

“We are also concerned about the government’s refusal to exclude oil exploration within the proposed reserve…. No exploration or exploitation of oil should ever be carried out on territories inhabited by uncontacted Indians…

“We believe that the oil company Pacific Stratus is poised to begin operations this year in areas where there are uncontacted tribes…

“By failing to both create the reserve and to rule out oil exploration, Peru is violating both domestic and international law…

“If the government does not act urgently to protect the uncontacted peoples of Yavarí Tapiche, we fear that they will not survive. Another tribe will disappear from the face of the earth, before the eyes of the world.”

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “We’ve repeatedly called for the Yavarí-Tapiche indigenous reserve to be created and for oil exploration to be ruled out, but the government has dragged its feet. The lives of uncontacted Indians are on the line but once again, economic interests take priority.”

Background Briefing

- The Yavarí Tapiche region is part of the Amazon Uncontacted Frontier. This area straddles the borders of Peru and Brazil and is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else in the world.
- Pacific Stratus, part of Canadian oil company Pacific E&P, began its first phase of oil exploration in 2012, despite protests from indigenous organizations and Survival International. It is believed that the company will begin its second phase soon.
- Oil exploration is devastating for uncontacted tribes. Over 50% of the Nahua tribe died as a result of exploration in the 80s.
- The indigenous organization ORPIO is suing the government over the threat of oil exploration.
- National indigenous organization AIDESEP has been calling for the creation of the reserve for over 14 years.